Baghali Pokhteh – Cooked Fava Beans (Persian Edamame)
Do fava beans remind you of Hanibal Lecter? Me too! Perhaps it’s time to make a different association, a happier and delicious one, for this bursting-with-nutrition legume.
The most challenging part of making baghali pokhteh is getting your hands on fresh fava beans. They are in season now, but oh-ever-so fleetingly! If you cross paths with a fresh batch, don’t hesitate – grab a few pounds and make this kid-friendly, tasty and healthy snack.
Fave beans live in pods … digressing a bit … have you ever peeked inside one? If not, try it: cajole open the seam of a pod with a knife and you’ll find beans cradled inside their fuzzy cocoon and you’ll understand once and for all where the saying “like two peas in a pod” comes from, and for an instant or two you may wish for a pod of your own to nestle inside. Then, at some point, you will hopefully snap out of your reverie and get back to the business at hand post-haste!
Speaking of the business at hand, here are a couple of things you should know about baghali pokhteh:
1) It’s a breeze to make: steam the pods (none of that shelling beans business, this is no sorting grains fairy tale task); season the pods (with salt for sure and maybe golpar aka ground angelica if you like, and and maybe some vinegar or lemon juice), and … that’s it!
2) Traditionally, it is a finger food served family style. Mom calls baghali pokhteh the Persian edamame because their respective manner of eating -detailed in the “serving” section of the recipe- is strikingly similar. And what do you know, here’s the recipe at last.
- 2-3 pounds of fava bean pods (choose ones that are small and firm and steer clear of the over-the-hill pods that bulge with beans or have a thick skin)
- Ground angelica (traditional seasoning – optional)
- Vinegar or freshly squeezed lemon juice (optional)
- Wash, rinse and pat dry pods –do not shell the beans- and sprinkle with salt.
- Steam pods for 10-15 minutes. Alternatively, boil the pods for 5-7 minutes. (You want to get perfectly tender beans that are neither al-dente nor overcooked. To achieve this sublime line it helps to check up on a pod and its beans at some point before time is up.)
- Drain pods and sprinkle liberally with salt for supreme goodness!
Optional: Golpar (ground angelica) is the traditional Persian seasoning for this dish, and it is definitely worth a try. Balsamic vinegar or freshly squeezed lemon juice enhance the nutty flavor of cooked fava beans quite nicely as well.
Can be served warm or cold; and either finger-food edamame style or shelled.
Finger Licking Edamame Style – Place bowl of cooked pods -seasoned to your taste as discussed above- on the table and dig in one and all: take a pod, split it open with teeth or fingers, harvest the beans, bite or tear the skin off the top of the bean, pinch the skin at bottom to squeeze and pop out the bean, eat the bean, lick fingers, repeat. This traditional method is fun albeit messy thus best suited to informal settings. A big bowl of fava, a few friends and family, and some cold beer: sign me up!
And check this, if you get a batch of favas that are particularly fresh and tender, the entire pod is edible. This is actually the default custom of Shomaliha (literally: The Northeners – referring to the people living in the northern Caspain Sea region of Iran) who eat the whole lot, pod and shell, only sparing the fingers. I’m not sure if this would be my cup of tea but as a wise man in the family says, the best nutrients are in the skin. So there’s that.
Sheltered Shelled Style – Harvest the beans from cooked pods, peel skins, and season to taste.
Silence of the Lambs Style- Enjoy your fava beans with a glass of Chianti and some (preferably store-bought) liver!
Make it, and whichever way you partake it enjoy it, and noosheh jaan!